|No. of episodes||120|
The Muppet Show is a syndicated half-hour variety show in which Kermit the Frog and the Muppets put on a weekly musical/comedy revue at the Muppet Theater. Unfortunately for them, things never quite go according to plan, resulting in the wise-cracking commentary on the proceedings by two old curmudgeons named Statler and Waldorf.
While Kermit had been featured extensively in other programs in the past, this show marked the introduction of a large, varied cast, including the hapless comedian Fozzie Bear, the diva superstar Miss Piggy, the lunatic daredevil artiste Gonzo, the wild drummer Animal, the unintelligible Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker of Muppet Labs, and many others.
Kermit the Frog served as host of The Muppet Show, and was also the director and general overseer of the performances, assisted by Scooter, the gofer who only got his job because his uncle, J.P. Grosse, owned the theater. The show's orchestra was conducted by Nigel, and musical acts ranged from solo musicians such as Rowlf the Dog, to the show's main rock and roll band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
Because it was a puppet show, The Muppet Show had the advantage of being able to include an endless array of characters with only a small number of performers. Aside from the aforementioned characters, recurring figures included Sam the Eagle, who tried to make the show more cultural; Camilla the Chicken, Gonzo's girlfriend; Robin the Frog, Kermit's nephew; and Link Hogthrob, the captain of the Swinetrek, among others.
Certain characters from the early years of the show, like Hilda and George the Janitor, fell by the wayside, while newer characters were introduced, such as Beauregard and the boomerang fish-throwing Lew Zealand. One of the few minor characters who became a major player after the series ended was Rizzo the Rat. In addition, the generic Whatnots and a wide array of animals, vegetables, and minerals filled out the chorus.
Most of the Muppets appeared in both backstage scenes and onstage sketches and songs. For example, while Beaker was primarily Bunsen's assistant, he also frequently helped Beauregard with his backstage duties. Although Janice was The Electric Mayhem's guitar player, she also appeared as a nurse in Veterinarian's Hospital. Many characters with backstage jobs also appeared on-stage quite frequently, in group numbers and "At the Dance" sketches. However, some characters were pigeonholed into their own sketches, such as The Newsman of Muppet News Flash and Louis Kazagger of Muppet Sports.
The Muppet Show featured a mix of established Muppets and new characters. Some major characters from previous productions (Kermit, Rowlf) remained prominent, while others (Nigel, Thog) were relegated to background or supporting status. Some minor characters from previous productions (Gonzo, Miss Piggy) became stars.
Some of the more popular famous comedic bits from the show include:
In keeping with the TV variety show format, each episode showcased a celebrity guest star or duo, who were the only humans to appear on the show. As noted in Jim Henson: The Works, "From Jim's point of view, this would help provide a bridge between the Muppet world and the audience. From ITC's point of view, it would make the show easier to promote." In the first season, Kermit introduced them at the start of the theme song and in a lyric after a joke by Fozzie. From the second season onward, the guest was invariably introduced in the cold open. During the first season, their involvement was limited primarily to the on-stage performances, showcases for the guest's comedic or musical skills. They also regularly participated in comedic blackouts, talk spots, and panel discussions.
As the series wore on, the guests became more crucial, becoming involved in the backstage plots, expressing dissatisfaction with the show, or as featured performers in elaborate "theme" stories. One of the more extreme examples came in the final season, with episode 507, as guest star Glenda Jackson reveals herself to be a ruthless pirate and commandeers the theater. The guest roster included a range of performers, from familar film and television personalities and stage theater veterans to ballet dancers, country singers, rock stars, experimental pantomime artists, and even a ventriloquist or two.
The majority of the guest stars during the first season were either personal friends of the production team (for example, first season head writer Jack Burns' former comedy partner Avery Schreiber was a guest), or a client of Jim Henson's agent, Bernie Brillstein. By the second season, the show started to attract more celebrities, and eventually celebrities were asking to appear on the show. Whenever a star was booked to appear on the show, they would be asked if there were any characters who they wanted to work with. Most of them wanted to work with either Kermit or Miss Piggy.
Some of the more memorable guest star moments include the following: Rita Moreno's performance of "Fever", backed by Animal on drums; Rudolf Nureyev dancing with a pig ballerina; Harry Belafonte singing "Turn the World Around"; Alice Cooper singing "School's Out" with the monsters; John Cleese being forced into a closing number; Gene Kelly giving Kermit a dance lesson; and Raquel Welch performing a song-and-dance number with a giant spider. In addition to showcasing the guests' familiar skills or "shticks," stars occasionally performed against type, such as Nureyev tap dancing to "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" or screen tough guy James Coburn focusing on zen meditation and calmness.
Some episodes played on the guest's established "star texts" as specific characters, such as Christopher Reeve's Superman and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. Roger Moore's appearance played ironically off of his James Bond persona, as Moore preferred to do the whimsical "Talk to the Animals" over any spy heroics. Occasionally, the guest's alter-egos even appeared directly, such as Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, Gilda Radner as Emily Litella, or Carol Burnett's janitor character. The most elaborate example, however, came in episode 417, as the stars of Star Wars appeared as themselves, continuing their space opera dramatics, while Luke Skywalker's portrayer Mark Hamill also appeared briefly as himself, introduced as Luke's "cousin."
The Muppet Show had a number of short segments and musical acts, along with backstage scenes which usually made up the show's plots. While the plots often occurred backstage, with a random variety of sketches thrown in, there were also many themed shows, especially in the last season. Such themes included a horror-themed show (when horror star Vincent Price appeared on the show), an evening of Paul Simon songs (when Paul Simon guest starred), a salute to vaudeville (when Wally Boag guest starred), and even an all-puppet show (when Señor Wences was the guest). Most episodes featuring country music evoked a Western or rural theme. Beginning in the third season, four episodes departed from the norm and utilized a "book" format, as the cast presented a long-form play (Robin Hood, a murder mystery, Alice in Wonderland, and 1001 Arabian Nights).
Due to shorter commercial breaks in the United Kingdom, an extra two-minute sketch was also included in the UK broadcasts, normally shown after the middle commercial break and never featuring the guest stars. Regular elements during the first season included "At the Dance" and the Talk Spots. These two sketches were featured less often in subsequent seasons. Another common recurring sketch in the first season were Fozzie Bear's monologues, which were later replaced by more elaborate acts (ventriloquism, for example), or dropped entirely.
Jack Burns was the head writer during the first season, and most of the humor during the first season was gag-based. Many recurring sketches, including At the Dance, Veterinarian's Hospital, The Talking Houses, Blackouts, and Fozzie's Monologues, focused heavily on jokes. After the first season, the talking houses and blackouts were dropped, while At the Dance and Fozzie's monologues were both featured less often, or tied to a specific gimmick or theme. Many of the backstage plots during the first season also revolved around running gags, such as episode 115, with Fozzie subjecting Kermit to an endless stream of puns.
After the first season, Jack Burns stepped down and Jerry Juhl took over as head writer. When Jerry Juhl became the head writer, the show became more character-based. Later episodes focused more on the backstage plots than the on-stage sketches. Some examples include episode 502, where Kermit fired Miss Piggy, and episode 515, where Gonzo turned the show into a dance marathon. The "book" format episodes often collapsed stage antics and backstage plot.
Other changes include the opening theme song. The lyrics have stayed the same but what happens during the beginning has changed at least three times.
While Jim Henson had been pleased with the success of Sesame Street, that show had branded the Muppets as a "kids' act." Henson was interested in creating a show that would provide entertainment across all age groups.
Henson auditioned his characters and his concept for the show many times to the major television networks, even filming a pitch reel for CBS. By 1973, ABC had ordered two prospective pilots for a potential series: The Muppets Valentine Show and The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence. ABC ultimately passed on producing a half-hour show.
Initially, Henson and company resisted producing the program in syndication, as they feared that the show would be underfunded. However, a British syndicator named Lord Lew Grade brought a proposal to the Henson company, with an assurance that the show would have the money for the production values it needed.
The show first hit the air waves in September, 1976. While it became a hit internationally almost immediately, the show struggled in the ratings its first year in America. In the second year of the show, with the format and the characters finding their groove, and such big-name stars as Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, John Cleese, Steve Martin, Elton John and others appearing, the show became a success in America as well. 
The show was subsequently dubbed in several languages and broadcast all over the world, which eventually led Time magazine to declare The Muppet Show "the most popular television entertainment on earth."
The show ran for five years and 120 episodes. It finally went off the air not due to a lack of popularity, but as a result of Henson's desire to move on to bigger projects, such as The Dark Crystal, that would require the full energy and resources of his company.
The popularity of the series led to many Muppet specials, movies, albums, and merchandise, both during and after the show's run. The show was popular not only in North America and the United Kingdom, but all over the world, so there have been many Muppet products that were not available for sale in the U.S. and/or U.K. During the show's run there were a number of toys produced, including hand puppets and plush toys released by Fisher Price. There were many Muppet Show albums featuring songs from the show, and a number of compilation albums featuring material from the first albums have been released since the show ended.
During the show's run (as well as the first few years after production ended), a collection of Muppet Show annuals were released once a year in the UK. The Muppet Show also had its own fan club, which included four newsletters per year. There were also a few games as well as a book that illustrated and transcribed material from the show.
The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper were the first attempts to adapt the characters to cinema, released during the show's original run, and other movies and specials followed. In 2002, The Muppet Show celebrated its 25th anniversary, with action figures, collectible busts, a 25th anniversary album, a set of trading cards, and more.
The first country to air the series was England as produced by ATV for the ITV networks. At the time, there was no complete networking of the independent networks, and as such the different regional channels did not all air the show on the same day or time. Not all regions aired every episode -- for example, London only aired 23 of the 24 episodes recorded as part of the first series. The first region to air the show was the ATV/Midlands region on Sunday September 5, 1976, beginning with the Joel Grey episode (NB: For the purposes of this article, the Midlands region airdates will be referred to throughout, unless otherwise specified). 16 episodes aired consecutively between September and December 1976, before the show took a one week break over Christmas, resuming in the new year for another five weeks. Over the next two months (February to March), however, a series of re-runs (as well as a compilation edition) were aired; the final three episodes, featuring guest stars Ethel Merman, Connie Stevens and Vincent Price eventually screened in April 1977.
The second season debuted on Friday September 30, 1977, beginning with the George Burns episode. Although 24 episodes were recorded as part of the second recording block, 30 episodes ended up being screened between September 1977 and April 1978. This consisted of the 24 episodes from the second recording block plus six episodes from the third recording block. It would appear that this was the case in other regions, as London also aired 30 episodes. Most episode guides, however, do not include the last six episodes (featuring guest stars Roy Clark, Leo Sayer, Gilda Radner, Pearl Bailey, Jean Stapleton and Loretta Lynn) as part of Season Two but instead as part of Season Three.
The third season debuted on Friday November 17, 1978, beginning with the Raquel Welch episode, and consisted of the remaining 18 episodes recorded as part of the third recording block, concluding on Friday March 9, 1979, with the Lynn Redgrave episode. The season only ran for 17 weeks as the Danny Kaye episode was broadcast on Christmas Day 1978, three days after the broadcast of the Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge episode.
In August 1979, Union members of the Independent Networks went on strike over a pay rise dispute and for 10 straight weeks there was a complete blackout in all the regions. The dispute was resolved in late October 1979 but unfortunately no television listings for the regional networks were printed until the following week. This has caused some confusion with regards to the airdates for the fourth season, and most guides only list 23 episodes having aired as opposed to the 24 recorded. Programming on ATV resumed on Monday October 29, 1979; the fourth series of the Muppet Show began that night, starting with the Dudley Moore episode (the only one that is not mentioned in some guides). The series only ran for 23 weeks as the remaining episodes aired in their usual Friday night slot, beginning with the Crystal Gayle episode on November 2, 1979 and concluding with the Diana Ross episode on April 4, 1980.
Reruns of The Muppet Show aired in syndication for many years, eventually moving to the TNT cable station from 1988 to 1992. From 1994 to 1995, reruns began airing on the Nickelodeon cable station instead. In 1999, the reruns moved to the partly Henson-owned Odyssey Channel. When Odyssey became Hallmark Channel, the Henson shows were taken off the schedule.
Reruns still sometimes air in countries outside of the United States, though, often packaged with the MuppetTelevision segments of The Jim Henson Hour (retitled The Jim Henson Show), and episodes of Muppets Tonight.
In the '80s and '90s, compilation videos featuring the most memorable sketches and songs from The Muppet Show were released by Playhouse Video. These compilations featured many sketches, including UK Spots, with new wraparounds of the Muppet characters.
In 1994, Jim Henson Video released two episodes on video for the first time in the release Monster Laughs with Vincent Price. This was the first commercially-available release of episodes outside of compilations, although the episodes were not complete.
In 2000, Time-Life began offering several of the most famous and popular episodes of The Muppet Show in their complete form on video (allowing American viewers to see an extra two minutes of footage that previously had only been available to UK audiences). The episodes were initially released on VHS, and then re-released on DVD. These were also sold in stores under the Columbia Tristar Video label.
In August 2005, Buena Vista Home Entertainment (a Disney imprint) released a DVD set of The Muppet Show: Season One. The 24 first season episodes were complete, except in a few instances where music rights proved prohibitive, resulting in a few musical numbers being deleted from the show. A second set, The Muppet Show: Season Two, followed in 2007, featuring uncut episodes. A third set, The Muppet Show: Season Three, was released in 2008.
In episode 85 of the MuppetCast, Muppet Studios general manager Lylle Brierre confirmed that Disney is currently getting legal clearances for music on the remaining seasons. There is no official release date for the next season.
The Muppet Show was a TV series which aired in syndication from 1976 to 1981. With a cast of puppets, called Muppets, each show featured a special guest star. The Muppets were designed by The Jim Henson Company, which was also responsible for the creation of many puppets used in the Star Wars films.
Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew guest starred as their respective characters on the show's January 16, 1980 episode, which was four months before the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Although the other two men play only their respective Star Wars roles, Hamill plays Luke Skywalker, as well as himself—known as "Luke's cousin".
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (remote controlled) have crash-landed on Earth and into the The Muppet Show sets. After meeting Luke's "cousin" Mark Hamill (playing himself), they reveal that they are searching for Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who has been "captured by a bunch of turkeys". They hijack the cast of the skit Pigs in Space to "borrow" the ship (the Swine Trek) for the search. Suddenly infatuated with Luke, Miss Piggy costumes herself as Princess Leia.
After accidentally crashing onto the planet Koozebane, the team confronts "Dearth Nadir", who is the Muppet Gonzo dressed in a Darth Vader costume. (A previous episode had "Nadir" invade the Swine Trek with a team of chickens as his "stormtroopers"). He had a device that neutralized any blaster, rendering Luke's useless.
Chewbacca was being held hostage on the planet, and managed to escape and attack Nadir. Luke and his "cousin" again meet. Right before major action is about to begin, Kermit the Frog gives the cue for a musical number. The Star Wars characters happily join in, with C-3PO displaying his dancing skills with a soft-shoe. Mark Hamill, who is shown as a completely different person than Luke in the show, dances along, while Luke becomes frustrated and walks away.
In addition to Hamill, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew reprised their roles (though they were credited as their characters). Daniels also guest starred as C-3PO in an episode of Sesame Street, another Muppet production, in which he and R2-D2 befriended Big Bird and R2 fell in love with a fire hydrant. Although R2-D2 appeared in The Muppet Show episode, it was the "three-legged" R2, operated by a radio control and not by Kenny Baker. However, Baker did later work with Jim Henson, playing a goblin in the film Labyrinth (with George Lucas as executive producer).
From 1985 until 1989, Marvel Comics produced a monthly comic book of the Muppet Babies with their Star Comics imprint. The series lasted for 26 issues. One such issue contained a Star Wars-related fantasy, with baby Piggy once more as Leia, and baby Gonzo once more as Darth Vader. The Muppet Babies cartoon also included numerous episodes spoofing Star Wars, most notably Gonzo's Video Show.
Frank Oz, the puppeteer of Yoda, was a lead puppeteer and creative consultant on The Muppet Show, performing Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and several others. Another Muppet Show regular, Kathryn Mullen, served as Yoda's right hand in The Empire Strikes Back.
During Anthony Daniels' event at Celebration IV, he showed some clips of his career as C-3PO—ranging from his The Muppet Show episode and Sesame Street episodes, to a C-3POs cereal commercial and The Star Wars Holiday Special. Daniels gave insight into these appearances, and told some stories of his experiences working on them.
The episode is officially available on DVD as part of "The Best of The Muppet Show - Mark Hamill / Paul Simon / Raquel Welch" DVD. However, it has been widely bootlegged by fans, and is often included with bootlegs of The Star Wars Holiday Special.